Living in a dystopian society makes falling in love difficult. But when the head of state security turns out to be a third party to the affair, love becomes dangerous—perhaps suicidal.
Pulled from shelves in Belarus just two days after its publication, Martinovich’s debut novel conjures up 1984’s Big Brother as it tells the story of Anatoly and Elisaveta’s star-crossed affair. Driven by spotty electricity and a touch of writer’s block, Anatoly takes a restless walk through town, hoping to connect with someone, to find someone who truly sees him, who truly can love him. At last, through the window of a cafe, his eyes lock with Elisaveta’s. Just as he realizes their bond, however, she races off in a car with plates belonging to the Ministry of State Security. The next night, haunted by her memory and the political gambits of his own novel’s plot, Anatoly finds himself back at the cafe, sliding into a seat across from her, beginning a torrid affair. Although the lovers try to be discreet, they are, in fact, under constant surveillance. The watchful eyes, open ears and nimble fingers of the State document every item in Anatoly’s home, every word between the lovers, every breath exhaled during their trysts. Ratcheting up the tension, Martinovich tempers the richly descriptive and allusive thoughts of Anatoly with the dry, clinical assessments of the surveillance reports. Placing the details of the trysts in those reports—and leaving Anatoly to simply remember his moments with Elisaveta—both isolates the lovers and ominously disconnects them from their own affair. So when Elisaveta disappears shortly after revealing her pregnancy, neither Anatoly nor the reader knows whom he can turn to for help.
A thrillingly twisted tale of a love triangle set in an all-too-plausible political nightmare.